One Year Later: The New Nintendo 3DS XL

My New Nintendo 3DS XL is almost a year old (thanks to some shipping delays) and I think it’s a good time to reassess if it was worth upgrading from my Nintendo 2DS by looking at each of the new or improved features of the New Nintendo 3DS XL. However, not everyone has a Nintendo 2DS – there are those who have the original 3DS or the 3DS XL, so I’ll try to consider where they are coming from as well. Doing this may help owners of the older models decide on upgrading or maybe waiting on any NX related announcements.

Disclaimer: I’m only talking about the New Nintendo 3DS XL and not the smaller version, which did not get released in the North America / Asia region until much later. Although the smaller version has almost the same features, the size difference matters (owners of the older 3DS XL models may not be too keen on getting the smaller New 3DS).


Most of the features that I’ll be talking about are stated right on the box.

Super-Stable 3D

The “Super-Stable” 3D viewing capability of the New Nintendo 3DS XL was one of the improvements that was highly emphasized prior to the release of the upgraded model and I have to say that it’s as good as advertised. Originally, I didn’t think that the 3D functionality of the 3DS was a must have feature (I owned the 2DS which did not have 3D) but after having played games on the New Nintendo 3DS XL for a year now, I can say that most 3DS games really do look better in 3D.

The 3DS is known to be graphically inferior to both the Playstation Vita and to current mobile devices, but the 3D functionally adds a special dimension (pun intended) that makes 3DS games look better, in my opinion. However, a lot has been written about how the 3D of the older 3DS models was hard to use because you needed to find the “sweet spot” by holding the older 3DS models at a certain angle and distance. Because of this, it was hard to play with the 3D on for long periods of time – you either end up with a headache because the graphics blurred outside of the “sweet spot” or with sore arms.

The Super-Stable 3D of the New Nintendo 3DS XL does away with the “sweet spot” by making use of an additional camera to track the position of the user’s head, allowing the device to project the two images accordingly. The device even has an infrared light in order for the head tracking technology to work even in the dark. This makes the 3D functionality is viable and changed it from a nice to have novelty into a truly compelling reason to get a New 3DS.

Built-in NFC Reader (for Amiibo)

At least until September 2015 when a separate NFC reader accessory, the only way for people to use amiibos with their 3DS games is by using a New Nintendo 3DS. And even then, anyone who owned an older 3DS would have to cough up $19.99 for the NFC reader. Even if you disregard the additional cost involved, needing a separate accessory would mean having to bring along another device with you, which may mean needing to bring a bag in order to carry both your 3DS and the NFC reader.

nfc reader

Owners of the older 3DS models had to wait for the NFC Reader accessory before they could use their amiibos.

The built-in NFC reader was promising in that regard. Aside from not having to spend extra, you also didn’t have to worry about how to fit your device and the NFC reader accessory in your pockets. But, and this is mainly a problem with amiibos, there really weren’t all that many amiibo-compatible 3DS games that were released last year. Personally, the only game that I have with amiibo compatibility is Super Smash Bros., and prior to 2016 there were only a handful of others – we saw Code Name: S.T.E.A.M., Xenoblade Chronicles 3D, Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer, Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy, and Chibi-Robo! Zip Lash (not counting Japan-only releases).

And even then, at least half of these are compatible with only a handful of amiibo. Due to the lack of amiibo-compatible games and the limited compability of those games, I didn’t really make much use of this feature in my first year of owning the New Nintendo 3DS XL.

Faster (and more powerful) Processing Power

The New Nintendo 3DS boasted of a faster CPU and more RAM than its older counterparts, but because Nintendo needed to make older games run on the new models without any issues, improvements in performance weren’t really apparent to me during gameplay. But beyond gameplay, the improvements are clear. The device starts up faster, games load faster, any function that needs a connection to Nintendo’s server is faster, even eShop downloads are faster. And there are newer games that do perform better on the New Nintendo 3DS, like Super Smash Bros. and The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D.

Thanks to the upgraded hardware, the device can now support a much better browser that’s able to play streaming video, which is still not as good as what mobile devices can do nowadays but is somewhat useful especially if you need to look something up and you don’t have your mobile device handy.

To be honest though, the improved hardware felt more of a bonus. Sure, it’s nice for everything to be snappier, but the older models worked fine enough in performing their main task: to run 3DS games. This improvement may be more significant in the long run though, as Unity Technologies have confirmed that their game engine (also called Unity) will support the New Nintendo 3DS. This may lead to more 3rd party and cross-platform games to be released on the New Nintendo 3DS in the future.

C-Stick (and additional shoulder buttons) for Enhanced Controls

I enjoy games that required either first person or third person perspective (mostly shooters) so I was really looking forward to the C-Stick feature of the New Nintendo 3DS XL, which is essentially a nub that functions as a second analog stick for aiming and controlling in-game camera angles. Owners of the older 3DS models had to purchase the Circle Pad Pro accessory if they wanted a second analog stick; 2DS owners didn’t have any options.

old vs new

Older regular sized 3DS with Circle Pad Pro on the left, New Nintendo 3DS XL on the right.

I can say that having the C-Stick is definitely a plus, but it’s not all that great. It works well for camera controls but isn’t that great for precision aiming. The C-Stick means that you don’t have to get a Circle Pad Pro but the biggest problem with it is that you can’t use a Circle Pad Pro with the New Nintendo 3DS if you wanted a more precise control method.

Like I said, the C-Stick works really well for camera controls – I can’t imagine playing The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D or Xenoblade Chronicles 3D without the C-Stick. So if you’re into similar games, you’ll like having the C-Stick. Not all games on the 3DS will make use of it, but there are enough titles (with more to come) with C-Stick compatibility. It boils down to the user – if you enjoy playing games that make use of the C-Stick, then it definitely is worth the upgrade.

Games that are Exclusive to the New Nintendo 3DS

When the New Nintendo 3DS was announced, advertisements said that there will be games released in the future that are exclusive to the New Nintendo 3DS. Well, here’s the list of New Nintendo 3DS exclusives:

  1. Xenoblade Chronicles 3D
  2. The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

Yes, two games in a span of one year. And nothing else has been announced as a New Nintendo 3DS exclusive title. News of Unity support for the New Nintendo 3DS keeps the promise of New Nintendo 3DS exclusives alive, but as of this writing it’s still a promise. If you’re looking to upgrade to the New Nintendo 3DS because you don’t want to miss out on the exclusives, you’re not missing much.

With all that said, upgrading to the New Nintendo 3DS XL depends on what model you currently own and which features you really like the most. Coming from a 2DS or the older 3DS, you’re getting a bigger screen size plus all the New 3DS features if you upgrade. But if you already have the older 3DS XL, the only strong feature of the New 3DS is the Super Stable 3D. For owners of the older 3DS XL units, I suggest waiting for a few more New Nintendo 3DS exclusive games (or news about the rumored portable NX) before you switch to the New Nintendo 3DS XL.

Let us know your thoughts on the New Nintendo 3DS XL by leaving a comment or two below!


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